Chemical Sunscreens vs Mineral Sunscreens – Insight into our formulation decisions.
May 3rd 2022
May 3rd 2022
Facial sunscreens are complicated things. There are many formulation challenges that can dauting for even the most experienced cosmetic chemist. We feel that everyone deserves to understand the formula choices we made so you can make the right decision for yourself and your family. First we need to get to some fundamentals.
What is a sunscreen?
A sunscreen is a type of topical product, used to screen out damaging UV rays produced constantly by the sun. The sun makes three types of UV rays, UV-A, UV-B and UV-C. UV-A and UV-B are the two types that can affect the skin. UV-C rays are actually blocked by the Earth’s atmosphere and are of little concern to us. An SPF value indicates the level of “protection” from the UV-A and UV-B rays from the sun. For example, an SPF 15 screens out approximately 93% of UV rays, while SPF 30 screens about 97%.
In the United States, sunscreens are regulated by the FDA as OTC (Over The Counter) drugs, meaning they have additional rules that other cosmetic products do not. For example, there are only a handful of FDA approved sunscreen ingredients available to include in sunscreens. There are also specific rules around the formulating, making, and even content on the box and package.
The FDA approved sunscreen list include two different “types” of sunscreens.
- “Organic” sunscreens - This word does not mean “organic” in the sense that they are grown free of pesticides, etc. In this case organic stands for the type of molecule the sunscreen active is. Organic molecules are a class of molecule made up of carbon chemistry. A good example of these are, Avobenzone and Homosalate. These sunscreens are often called “chemical sunscreens”
- “Inorganic” sunscreens - Again, this refers to a class of molecules, made up of “inorganic” chemistries. The two primary examples are Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. These sunscreens are often called “mineral sunscreens”.
Both types of sunscreens have their place in the formulator’s toolbox and the use of them depends on the consumer want and product feel requirements.
Choices Choices, Choices:
Recently, a common theme among sunscreen formulations is to only use the mineral sunscreen active ingredients. This is an attractive choice for formulators and consumers alike. The two approved ingredients, Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are not “chemical” sunscreens and are effective at raising SPF when used at suitable levels in a formula.
The SeeME brand chose to use organic sunscreen type of materials for several reasons.
- 1.We believe that the best sunscreen is one that you actually use. We know that everyone has used sunscreens in the past, and they often don’t feel very good. A sunscreen active is not the only part of the formula that interacts with your skin. The mineral sunscreen actives available were not suitable for use with the rest of the formula that actually makes the skin feel good. We want you to use products that you actually want to use to get the benefits. A sunscreen in a bottle is useless.
- 2.The sunscreen active ingredients provide broad spectrum protection. While mineral sunscreens can also provide broad spectrum protection, the Avobenzone found at 3% in our sunscreen is specifically added to provide UV-A protection. The other three sunscreen actives, provide UV-B protection.
- 3.There is a very long history of these ingredients. The approved sunscreens have been available to formulate with for decades, being used in hundreds of other products throughout the US and the world. There is high confidence in their ability to provide sun protection when used at suitable levels.
So What Should You Do?
Ultimately, we want you to make the right decisions for you and your family when it comes to sunscreen and facial skincare options. Sunscreens are extremely complicated, and this summary only scratches the surface. Both types of sunscreens are effective at providing sun protection when formulated and tested correctly.
The important piece here is that you choose an option that you actually use. Sun protection is important to not only the look of your skin but it’s health as well, so we hope you choose one that meets your personal needs, even if ours isn’t your choice.